We are delighted to welcome author Katie Sahota and illustrator Harry Woodgate to Story Snug as part of their Little Glow blog tour. Little Glow is a beautifully illustrated picture book that celebrates diversity and the importance of light during festivals and celebrations throughout the year.
Little Glow is a little candle that marvels at the wondrous array of lights that it can see from his window throughout the year. He sees a lighthouse, a girl celebrating her birthday, Halloween pumpkins and stars. There are lights for a family celebrating Chinese New Year, a family celebrating Hanukkah, a family celebrating Diwali and a family celebrating Diwali and a family celebrating Christmas.
This beautifully illustrated rhyming book celebrates diversity and light on Little Glow’s street. It’s a great book to stimulate conversations about the way that light is used on different occasions and in different celebrations to portray love, hope and togetherness.
At the end of the book there is also information about fire safety and the use of candles in the home.
Age Range: 3 +
Thank you so much to Katie and Harry for joining us on Story Snug. It’s absolutely fascinating to hear the story behind the story and how much research went into Little Glow.
Did you have to do research into the different festivals you’ve featured in the story? If so, did you find anything surprising, interesting etc. while researching?
Harry: Yes definitely! It was very important to us that all the festivals and characters featured in the story were as accurately and sensitively depicted as possible, so I made a point of thoroughly researching each one – both in terms of their historical, cultural and religious significance, and their appropriate food, clothing, behaviour, decorations et cetera. It was interesting learning about some of the symbolism behind the use of light in each celebration, the specific lighting techniques and the importance of different colours, and this all provided an extra level of meaning to the illustrations.
Katie: We went into a lot of the detail with the research, which might not be obvious to the reader. For example, the use of numbers in cultures was important when deciding which house numbers to use for the different celebrations. We tried to use auspicious numbers where possible. The festival I enjoyed researching the most was Hanukkah. According to my mum, there are Jewish roots in my family and we are trying to trace them at the moment. Learning about the menorah and how it is used as part of Hanukkah was really interesting and I didn’t know there was a particular order for how the candles should be lit.
How did you decide which elements to include to best represent each festival?
Harry: Figuring out the best elements to include was very much a team effort; Sam and Katie provided detailed illustration notes with ideas about what we could include – specific lanterns, for example, or rangoli patterns – and following my own research, I incorporated additional elements such as the geometric patterns in the steam for Ramadan. I think well-placed and well-researched visual signifiers can really help create a believable world and believable characters, even in instances where you don’t have the same intimate understanding as someone who celebrates a particular festival themselves.
Something else Katie and I worked on together was to have the characters intermingle between spreads and partake in each others’ festivities. This was less about representing any one festival in particular, and more about creating a real, diverse, inclusive community, where each of the characters have relationships with one another and don’t simply function as two-dimensional cut-outs to explain a particular celebration or religious practice.
Katie, was the book always going to be in rhyme? Did you find this challenging or did it come naturally?
I absolutely love reading rhyming stories and the evidence shows rhyme is a really good tool for language development in young children. However, when I first discussed the idea for book with Sam, he asked me to write it in prose. I was secretly disappointed as I was desperate to write a rhyming story, but Sam advised that prose would be better for me to be able to develop a rich story with a strong narrative. As a new author, I wasn’t going to argue with the publisher! After many, many weeks of writing and editing, we finally settled on a prose version of Little Glow we were happy with. Finally, Sam told me I could write my rhyming version and I was over the moon!
The process of developing the rhyming version after the prose version worked really well and helped me stay true to the core message of the story. It can be risky with rhyme to create lines in the story because the word fits the rhyme, rather than it being necessary for the story. When you are working with 600-700 words, every single one counts!
Harry, can you talk us through one of your favourite illustrations from the book?
I really like the scene with the girl celebrating her birthday. This was really fun to illustrate, because it has such a lot going on in terms of characterisation and layout, and so much of the story is told through the imagery. I began with pencil sketches – all of these were variations on the same layout, but we chose a version framed by the window to link back to the idea that Little Glow is watching the scene from outside.
The other thing I like is how there’s a navigable visual journey through a page – in my debut author-illustrator book, Grandad’s Camper, I did a similar thing both with miniature camper vans creating a trail between separate vignettes, and with a road snaking its way through a big city. Here, the girl’s birthday candles take us on a journey through the celebrations – cutting the cake, opening presents, and eventually to Little Glow who watches in wonder.
We went through a few revisions to get the illustration right – mainly to do with colour. I often tend to gravitate towards brighter colours and lighter backgrounds, but that didn’t work very well when we were trying to create an atmosphere of cosiness and wintry warmth. Sam suggested we switch the background colours to a very dark blue, and to dim the lights so that there was a more distinguishable ‘glow’ from the birthday cake candles. The other small but very important element I added was rim lighting on the characters’ faces – there’s something slightly magical about this kind of light which makes everything feel snug and inviting.
And Katie, do you have a favourite spread or image in the book?
My favourite spread of Harry’s is definitely Chinese New Year. The perspective of the dragon and the colours really brings the story to life and it jumps out of the page for me!
I absolutely love this spread too!
Thank you both for sharing the writing, illustrating and research processes behind the story. It sounds like it was a really collaborative process.
Good luck with your next book projects 🙂
About Katie Sahota
Debut author Katie Sahota is a passionate writer with 20 years’ experience as a public servant. She studied English Language and Linguistics and went on to complete a Master’s in Public Health, specialising in the wellbeing of children and young people. Katie strongly believes in the power of writing and books to tackle important issues, such as identity, inclusion and race, using her experiences of a gender-biased career and as the mother of two mixed race girls. Katie lives with her husband and children in Warwickshire and can be found on
About Harry Woodgate
Harry Woodgate is an award-winning illustrator who has recently come to the fore for their picture book, Grandad’s Camper (Andersen Press, May 2021), their debut as both author and illustrator. Woodgate has been shortlisted for the V&A Illustration Awards 2019 and the Folio Society Book Illustration Competition 2018 and 2019. Harry lives in Hertfordshire.
Thank you to Owlet Press for sending a copy of this beautiful beautiful book, a book that we’d love to see on the book shelves of every primary school.
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